Penobscot Bay Antique Loan Exhibition

By Barbara F. Dyer | Oct 11, 2014
Courtesy of: Walsh History Center

Many readers will think the middle of August 1935 is ancient history, but as a child, I still remember it well: the Antique Loan Exhibition was stated to be “The Outstanding Historical and Educational Event in Maine.”

It was given for the benefit of our community hospitals. The officers and executive committee consisted of our prominent “summer people” at that time. Most of us in Camden knew of them all: W. Griffin Gribbel, chairman; Parker Morse Hooper, first vice-president; Mrs. Edward J. Cornelis, second vice-president; Mrs. William T. Elliot, treasurer; Miss Emma S. Alden, secretary; Mrs. Edward W. Bok, chairman general committee; Albert E. Whitehill, chairman publicity committee; Charles F. T. Seaverns, chairman receiving committee; Mrs. Rexford Daniels, chairman ticket committee and Ralph B. Wilson, chairman entertainment committee.

It was held from Aug. 12 to 17, 1935, in our grand old Camden Opera House. Most of you think that was not possible, but that auditorium had a flat floor and many, many events were held there. The seats were in sections of eight and pushed aside when dances, food fairs and other things were using the beautiful wooden floor. When plays were held people could view very well, even with a flat floor, because the stage was higher than the seats. It was arranged like the churches are today with the pulpit higher than the floor.

The admission to this exquisite show was 50 cents from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. If you came in the evening, until 10 p.m., it was only 25 cents. Or, you could attend the entire week for $2.50.

Many of our “summer people” had been collectors of antiques for several generations. So they decided it was a lovely way to place them in public view for the first time, as it would be educational, historical and, at the same time, raise money for our local hospitals (Camden Community Hospital on Mountain Street and Knox Hospital in Rockland). The committee each had friends in Belfast, Castine, Islesboro, North Haven, Rockland and Rockport, who also had many rare and beautiful antiques that they would share with the public for this show. Talks were arranged each afternoon at 3 p.m. by recognized authorities. They also arranged for Homer E. Keyes, editor of Antiques Magazine, and Harold Donaldson Eberlein of Philadelphia to be present at the exhibition to supervise the displays and introduce the speakers.

Some items shown were a mirror from Mrs. Bok’s mother, Louisa Knapp Curtis, a 1790 pitcher and a pine writing chair of early 19th century. Mrs. Bok had worked for a year combing the district for lovely, rare furniture, glass, china, pewter and silver. Shown were an American Farm room, Early American bedroom, eighteenth century bedroom, drawing rooms, dining rooms and parlors. An elaborate catalog of the exhibition was printed for reference. Names of owners were not disclosed for several reasons.

The first day of the show there were 550 paid admissions, followed by 770 the following day. It welded together the Camden residents and the “summer people.”

In all the windows of the Opera House were colorful pieces of old glass that gave a beautiful glow everywhere one looked.

The Aug. 22, 1935, edition of The Camden Herald had a picture of the committee as its heading. It stated the Antique Show was a big success with more than 3,700 people attending, and more than 2,000 rare antiques displayed.

What a wonderful event and great fundraiser that was.

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